TikTok has been banned from UK Government phones with immediate effect over cyber-security ‘risks.’
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden disclosed that the block on the Chinese-owned app came after a review by Government experts.
He also revealed that only third-party apps from an approved list would be allowed on official devices.
The restriction comes in response to concerns that users’ sensitive data could be accessed by the authorities in Beijing via TikTok’s firm’s owner ByteDance, which has its headquarters in China.
Members of the Government and officials will also be discouraged from keeping the controversial video-sharing app on their personal phones, but they will not be banned from using them in their own time.
It follows moves by the US, the EU, and Canada to stop officials using the app on their work devices, and comes after the Government declared that China ‘poses an epoch-defining challenge’.
Parliament’s TikTok account was shut down last year after MPs raised concerns about the firm’s links to China. The official Downing Street TikTok page has not been updated since the summer. But the Ministry of Defence opened an account only last week.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who has called for a more robust attitude towards Beijing, welcomed the development. But he told MailOnline the ban had to be extended to the personal phones of ministers and senior civil servants to work effectively.
‘While they are ministers they should be denied access. If it is a security risk on the government phones it is a security risk on their phones,’ he said.
‘The idea that they do nothing with the Government other than on their secure phones – I’m sorry, that is not true. This app should not be on their personal phones.’
TikTok has said bans have been based on ‘misplaced fears and seemingly driven by wider geopolitics’, saying it would be ‘disappointed by such a move’ in the UK.
But Alicia Kearns, chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: ‘Significant questions remain around TikTok’s ability to act as a data Trojan Horse. The Government has a duty to protect our people from the acquisition of our personal data by a hostile states.’
Asked about a possible ban earlier this week, security minister Tom Tugendhat told Times Radio he had asked the National Cyber Security Centre, a branch of GCHQ, to assess the risk.
‘We need to make sure that our phones are not spyware, but useful tools for us,’ he said.
It comes after the Biden administration threatened to ban TikTok in the US unless its Chinese owner sells its shares in the app.